Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Prince Biopic?

BET claims to give ten good reasons that it's not a good idea. (HT to Ann Althouse for putting me onto the BET slide show where they make their case.)

The two biggest reasons they give for not doing a Prince biopic is that biopics are generally not good and that Prince wasn't involved in the anti-hunger supergrouping of the 90's top US musical superstars, We Are the World. Althouse objected to the latter point as a good excuse for not portraying Prince's non-participation in that project, suggesting that exploring Prince's motives for saying no could be interesting.

I reacted over on Althouse's blog:
Movie biopics ARE generally, horrible though, as the BET slideshow points out.

Tonight, I watched the last half-hour of Jersey Boys. Horrible! (Of course, it might have helped if the Four Seasons' music, which I hated while growing up during the sixties, was good.)

But, in any case, the film industry has a way of butchering and pasteurizing their subjects, melding them into [indistinguishable] "musicaleverybodies." Didn't the Johnny Cash and Ray Charles biopics look like they were about the same person, that they led the exact same lives? Biopics have a way of disintegrating into kind of reality TV versions of 'Behind the Music,' every story the same.

When Hollywood went to work on telling George Gershwin's story (1945), almost none of it bore any resemblance to George Gershwin's story.

The same is true of 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' (1942), the biopic about George M. Cohan, which at least has the redeeming quality of being entertaining, spiced as it is by James Cagney's extraordinary, all-in dance stylings.

But there have been two more recent movie biopics that seem to have fairly hewn to the actual stories of their subjects' lives and careers.

The most creative of these is Kevin Spacey's 'Beyond the Sea' (2004). It's Spacey's telling of Bobby Darin's life story. There's little fiddling with the facts, though there are interesting flashbacks and flash forwards. You get a clear understanding of Darrin the man. Spacey, a terrific mimic, does a good job channeling his inner Darrin on the latter's catalog. A thoroughly enjoyable film.

Another successful recent music biopic is the 2014 release 'Ragamuffin,' focused on the life of Rich Mullins, an early practitioner of Christian contemporary music. Mullins' music was honest and so is this film. It shows the musician's quest to live a life of authentic Christian faith despite his rising fame. The music is great too. A film both enjoyable and deeply moving.

BET, I think, is wrong for suggesting that Prince's staying away from mass social activity renders him unfit for film treatment. His reasoning [as Althouse suggests] may warrant exploration. What were his reasons for doing big charitable events, while keeping his significant personal philanthropy quiet?

In fact, a similar shying away from association with big causes--in spite of appearances and reputation to the contrary and a few exceptions--will face any prospective producer of a Bob Dylan biopic. Dylan's 'Blowin' in the Wind' was an anthem for many in the 60's civil rights movement. But his connection to the movement or to the protests of the war in Vietnam were limited to non-existent. Dylan wasn't really a cause guy; he was more of a Dylan guy.
In the end, I think it's the music that matters most.

[Blogger Mark Daniels is the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio.]

Friday, May 20, 2016

'Proportional' reporting on possible terrorism?

That's the subject of this piece I wrote for The Moderate Voice.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Say I Won't by Lecrae ft. Andy Mineo

Christ sets you free to be different. Because you know when you've got God's OK, your slate made clean by the grace that comes to believers in Jesus, you tend to tune out the people who say you won't. Even talented rappers who turn their backs on the bigger ducats in order to give the bigger glory to Christ, not themselves.

I dare you to listen.

Rat Race by Andy Mineo

Move (Keep Walkin') by TobyMac

Feel It by TobyMac

"You take our brokenness and make us whole..."

Couldn't I Just Tell You by Todd Rundgren

A less well known song from Rundgren's Something/Anything? collection.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

If baseball was easy...

All in good fun. This T-Shirt design cracked me up when I saw it in an ad on Facebook. Baseball is physical chess.

[Blogger Mark Daniels is the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio.]

Eugenio Suarez touches them all!

I was overeating today at Tank's Bar and Grill, when I saw this bomb by Eugenio Suarez of the Reds. He hit the ball pretty good, as Tony Perez used to say.

In a rebuilding year...

...we will take this win today. Go, Reds!

Pentecost: The Holy Spirit and the Gift of New Life

Acts 2:1-21

Luke and Amber: Today’s message is for you. (But I hope that you won’t mind my inviting everyone else to listen in.)

This year, we switched the day when young people are confirmed at Living Water to Pentecost. It was on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ first disciples and empowered Christ’s Church to live in the freedom of forgiven sin and life with God and without embarrassment, to tell the whole world about Jesus.

This then, seems like a great day for instructed folks to be confirmed for several reasons.

One reason is that Confirmation is also called Affirmation of Baptism. And Baptism is when the Holy Spirit came to you, Amber and Luke!

Holy Baptism is a big deal!

Contrary to the lousy translation of 1 Peter 3:21 that appears in the New International Version, the version in our sanctuary Bibles, the Bible says that “baptism...saves you” [ESV]. 

In Baptism in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are saved from sin and death, our old sinful selves drowned in the waters of the baptismal font.

But our sinful selves are our inner zombies that, until we pass from life on this earth, will continue trying to pull us away from God. The devil, the world, and our sinful inner selves try to tell us that God is a wet blanket instead of our best Friend, that what we think of as “little sins” (though to God, every sin is equally horrible) are no big deal, and that you just need to be a nice person to get into heaven. Know this, Luke and Amber: Those are all lies and if we believe them, they will take away our eternal lives with God.

Thank God for your baptism!

It gives you a leg up in telling the devil, the world, and your inner sin self to get lost.

But today, and every day of your life, you have a decision to make: Will you rely on the God Who came to you in your Baptism or will you rely on those voices that urge you to break loose of God? 

It all comes down to who you trust, the God you know in Jesus, or the voices, the people, and the world that oppose God.

Jesus says: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Today, you publicly affirm your desire to live your whole life and all eternity in the covenant of love God made with you in Holy Baptism.

There’s another good reason for having Confirmation on Pentecost Sunday. It’s only through the power of God’s Holy Spirit that we’re even capable of believing in Jesus.

We live in a bad news world--people treating each other horribly, wars, terrorists, and power plays. And that’s just the behavior displayed by little kids on elementary school playgrounds!

In a world filled with horrible news, it’s hard to believe in the good news that everyone who turns from their sin and believes in Jesus, God in human flesh who died and rose, can give us forgiveness, hope, purpose, and new and everlasting life.

The most we can do is say is, “Lord, I’m willing to believe.”

And you know what? God answers prayers like that.

1 Corinthians 12:3 tells us: “ one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

Amber and Luke, if you authentically want to affirm your baptism today and follow Jesus as you move into adulthood, the Holy Spirit will supply you with the faith you need every moment you live.

Today, Luke and Amber, and all of us who will confess God in the words of the Apostles’ Creed, resolve to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…”

Trust Him even when trusting is hard or life is hard because it’s exactly at these moments, when our faith runs into roadblocks we can't overcome that Jesus takes us by the hand and God's Holy Spirit builds up our faith the most! Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio.]

How the Holy Spirit Changes Everything

Acts 2:1-21

I wrote a special Pentecost message for the second service when Luke and Amber will be confirmed. But it didn’t seem quite appropriate for this service. So I made a decision. Even though I know you’ve all memorized my old messages, I’m presenting a slightly revised rerun of last year’s Pentecost message.

Pentecost already was an important day on the Jewish calendar when the day we Christians often call "the first Pentecost" happened. For Jews, Pentecost was the fiftieth day after Passover. While Passover celebrated ancient Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt, Pentecost celebrated the giving of the law, the ten commandments, by God through Moses to Israel (and, through him, to all the world) at Mount Sinai.

That may seem weird to us. We don’t like laws. They hem us in, keep us from doing what we want to do, control us. And some human laws can be unjust and oppressive, obviously.

But ancient Israel saw God’s Law, the ten commandments and the moral laws that stem from them, as good things, as blessings that marked out the boundaries of what they called shalom, a place of peace with God and neighbor and self. The Israelites even sang about God’s Law. “Oh, how I love Your law!” Psalm 119:97 says, for example, “I meditate on it all day long..”

God's people had a problem though: They loved God’s law. They couldn’t keep it.

If following God’s law was like staying on a paved road marked out for driving, disobeying it was like falling into a ditch of mud.

And like kids who have just taken a bath, Israel loved heading for the ditches of sin: the ditch of idolatry, the ditch of materialism, the ditch of wanting to fit in with others and ignore the will of God, the ditch of adultery and fornication, the ditch of false witness and character assassination, the ditch of self will, the ditch of thievery and false business and political dealings.

Life in the ditches leads inevitably to separation from God.

And to be separated from God, the Maker of life, is to be separated from life, to be dead.

Yet, like the ancient Israelites, you and I can’t help ourselves. We’re born ditch-seekers.

We can hear and know God’s law and even delight in it. But we cannot, through the force of our own characters or wills, keep God's law.

Our only hope is the Gospel, the good news.

The Gospel isn't some abstract story about love.

The Gospel springs from a particular true story, the true story of how God took on flesh in a particular human life. It’s the true story of Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit so that He would not inherit the sin that the rest of the human family inherits from our parents.

Jesus was the perfect once-and-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world. Jesus rose from the dead and offers the benefits of His sacrifice--new life--to all who believe in Him as their God and Savior. That's the Gospel!

The new kingdom that Jesus died and rose to bring into being isn’t opposed to the law God gave through Moses. In fact, in some ways, Jesus makes God’s Law even more demanding than it is in the Old Testament.

“Do not think,” Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, “that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets…” Then He says in Matthew 5:20: “...unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Our situation would be hopeless were it not for the fact that Jesus Christ, the One Who delivers this stern message, has done for us what we can’t do for ourselves. He has obeyed the law. Perfectly. Jesus has kept the law perfectly and so, by His innocent death for us, has conquered the law and its stern verdict against every one of us! That commutation of an eternal death sentence is ours when we turn from sin and trust in Jesus Christ as our only God and hope!

So Romans 8:1-2 tells us this: “...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Those who are saved by God’s grace through their faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ are pulled out of the ditch of sin and death and set on the narrow path that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 7:13-14. “Enter through the narrow gate” Jesus says there. “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Jesus is the narrow path and there is life to be found nowhere else. In no legalistic religious system. In no psychobabbling fad. In nothing that this world has to offer. All of those wide and inviting paths lead to condemnation because, as they're all built around the idea that I can be good enough to warrant a pass from God, they leave us naked in our sin, worthy only of condemnation. When we follow Jesus, He clothes us in His righteousness.

All of which brings us back to Pentecost, recounted in chapter 2 of the New Testament boo of Acts. The first chapter of Acts shows us that the first Christians experienced how Jesus’ grace can change people’s relationships with God and with each other. Jesus forgave them for abandoning Him and denying Him on the night of His betrayal. Through the crucified and risen Jesus and their faith in Him, God pulled them from the ditches of shame and guilt. They were set right with God and learning what it meant to live in the kingdom of heaven.

But their minds, like ours, were still fogged by sin. So they ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” [Acts 1:6]

Jesus tells them that for God to pull them out of their fog, they needed to pray. Then, the power of God’s Holy Spirit, the power that created the universe, would come to them. That’s exactly what happened on the Pentecost of our second lesson.

Like the first disciples, all who today believe in Jesus and are baptized, receive the Holy Spirit.

Yet, the world is still in a massive ditch and it’s so easy for us to wallow in sin.

This side of our own resurrections, we will never be completely free of sin.

And, acting in our own strength, even when we think we're doing good things, we can only make things worse.

That’s why Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit gives birth to faith.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and drives us to the cross.

The Spirit also assures the repentant of forgiveness through faith in Christ.

And He enables us to be used by God to pull others out of their ditches.

As we submit our lives to the control and grace of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit can empower us to live differently. We begin to exhibit what Galatians 5:22-23 calls “the fruit of the Spirit,” things like “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” This is the life of the kingdom of heaven, the life of shalom, of peace with God, peace with others, peace with others.

The Pentecost crowd must have wondered how this kind of peace could come to them. So do we. How can we know peace in the midst of chaos? How can we have serenity in the midst of this world’s uncertainties? 

Peter knew the answer to those questions, not because he was perfect or arrogant or intelligent. Peter knew the way to peace because like the other first followers of Jesus, he knew Jesus.

In Acts 2:21, the last verse in our lesson, Peter shares God’s peace with the crowd. Quoting from an Old Testament passage that used the word Yawheh, I AM, God’s Name revealed to Moses the lawgiver and which we translate in our Bibles simply as LORD, Peter commended to the crowd the One he and his fellow disciples had come to call, “Lord." He commended the Lord Jesus to them. Peter told the crowd:
“...whoever calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Today, this week, the Holy Spirit can empower you to live each day in the assurance that, no matter how crazy, conflicted, marked by futility, sad, or even horrible and tragic the world may be, as you submit your sins, your hopes, your decisions, your family, your whole life to Jesus Christ, you are saved, again and again...from the law condemns us for our sin even as it shows us the will of God, from death, and from the devil.

You are saved from the gossip that tears you down, from the fears that haunt you, from the temptations that allure you, from the sadness that dogs you, from sin, from death.

To have Jesus is truly to have God’s peace.

Jesus Christ is in heaven right now at the Father’s right hand. But if you believe in Him and call His Name, you are not and you never will be alone.

The Holy Spirit has come to let you know that whoever calls on the Name of the Lord Jesus--when you call on the Name of the Lord Jesus--you are saved, safe forever in the arms of God, empowered forever to leave the ditch behind and walk as freed, redeemed, and forever loved children of God. Amen!

[Blogger Mark Daniels is the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio.]